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Bookstore owners close shop, prepare for their next chapters

GEORGETOWN — Bluegrass music played softly throughout Bohannons' Books With a Past on Thursday as regular customers and friends of the two sisters who started the business 12 years ago ventured in for laughs, conversation and books.

Many heard the news for the first time. Others were grappling with losing a Main Street staple.

The reaction to the store's final chapter was always the same: sadness and disbelief.

But for retired educators Kay Vincent and Barbara Hoffman, Saturday, the day Bohannons' closes for good, will be bittersweet because they will finally begin a true retirement.

"It's been great," Hoffman said. "But, honestly, I'm tired. I want to do something else — or nothing."

They made the decision a couple of months ago as both sisters were working in the store, probably doing something tedious, Hoffman said. One of them suggested it was time to quit. The other agreed.

"We were unloading books, I'm sure," Hoffman said, laughing.

Hoffman said she plans to catch up on her reading and wants to travel "everywhere." She said she would love to visit Greece and Italy.

Vincent said she is looking forward to taking trips with her sister, exercising more, reading and learning Vietnamese.

"This is the first time in my life where I haven't felt like I have to do something," she said.

The bad economy was not the reason behind their decision to close, Vincent said.

"The economy forced us to look at what we were doing," Vincent said. "But it didn't force us to close, because we could have made it."

Hoffman said no one has shown serious interest in buying the bookstore, so the departure will create a void for many.

"It's kind of like the old-time general store for Georgetown," said Kitty Dougoud, the city's Main Street director, who wandered into the store Thursday afternoon with a friend who was picking up a book he had ordered.

Dougoud, like many others, had tales to share about Bohannons' Books with a Past; she sometimes decorated the window facing Main Street using Sadie, the bookstore's mannequin mascot.

The bookstore, named for the sisters' maiden names, started on West Main Street before moving to a larger location four years later at 152 East Main Street. The store originally sold used books and then began selling new titles.

They had movers help with the relocation, but Vincent thought it would be fun to have children dress up in funny costumes and pull wagons full of books along Main Street to the new location. Hoffman said so many people participated that the street was temporarily closed.

The bookstore, the only one in Georgetown, has been a refuge for book lovers in the area and a place for Main Street business owners and employees to escape during lunch breaks.

Jan Albers walked around the store Thursday, snapping pictures for her blog. Albers, who moved to Georgetown about 10 years ago from Chicago, stopped to talk to Hoffman about the closing. Bohannons', which is decorated with photos of authors and colorful Japanese kites, is a place where she made many friends.

"You've enriched my life tremendously," Albers told Hoffman. "It has been a real great addition. I wish someone would have bought it."

Albers has offered to move one of the store's book clubs to her apartment, which is across the street from Bohannons'.

Doug Griggs, an education professor at Georgetown College, offered a disgruntled "oooooh," when Hoffman told him the store would be closing.

He said he doesn't like large bookstore chains and will probably go to Joseph-Beth Booksellers in Lexington instead of the store he walks or drives past twice a day.

Hoffman said all the books left in the store after it closes will be sold to booksellers. Bohannons' has placed price tags on furniture, including bookcases and tables.

Both sisters say they will primarily miss the people — the customers, the authors who visited Bohannons' for signings and readings, and other bookstore owners they met at conferences.

"I thought because I taught in this community that I knew a lot of people, and I did," Vincent said. "But I've met a bunch more."

Hoffman shared stories about several authors who visited Georgetown. They chatted about Haywood Smith's thick southern accent and how he presented the sisters with a red geranium. And they recalled the Scott County resident who brought a goat into the store during a George Ella Lyon signing (their recollection is that the goat had something to do with a piece of Lyon's literature about animals).

Vincent said she'll miss gaining the trust of customers and remembered one woman who had finally started allowing the sisters to recommend a book.

"I'll also miss being able to put a book that I know somebody's going to like in their hands," Vincent said.